Authors: Lauren Dane
“Bubble gum. I don’t think I’ve tasted bubble gum lip gloss after a kiss since the tenth grade.”
She waggled her brows and quickly put the gloss back on.
“I want to see you every day.” He brushed a kiss over her forehead. “I like waking up with you. I like seeing you at breakfast. I’m greedy that way.”
Love swamped her. He had a way of getting past all her defenses, and she couldn’t have stopped him even if she’d wanted to. “Me too. You’re very handy to have around and you don’t hog the covers.”
“These months until the wedding can’t move fast enough.” He took a deep breath. “Now, you ready to look pretty on my arm?”
She grabbed her bag and took the arm he’d extended. “And I’m available for any feels you feel compelled to cop.”
“Win/win for me, sugar. I’m a lucky, lucky man. I’ve got my bag in the car. Along with a peach cobbler Tate sent with me. I’ll be right back.”
Anticipation and joy washed over her at the mention of the cobbler—maybe even more excitement than when he’d said he liked waking up with her. The woman was totally easy for pie and cobbler.
“You’re staying over?” She wanted him too. So very much. At first she’d been hesitant to let him stay over once Chris had returned, but he seemed to calm at the sight of Nathan, at knowing she was involved with someone stable and an authority figure in his life.
“Course I am. I like waking up next to you. You know Chris is aware we have sex. We’re getting married and everything. Tomorrow if I had my way about it.”
She paused. They’d had a little friction on this point, but she felt strongly over it. Growing up in his horrible household, he’d been thrust into a fatherhood role to help raise his siblings. She didn’t want to take advantage of him like that. Chris wasn’t his to raise. Nathan had a very full life with lots of people he took care of, and she didn’t want to add more. It wasn’t fair to him and it wasn’t fair to Chris.
“I have to take him to the orthodontist tomorrow afternoon.”
“I know. I’m going to take you both to lunch after.” He took her hands. “What is it that makes you have that look on your face? Hmm?”
“He’s not your responsibility.”
He grinned in that way of his that sort of made it hard to keep her thoughts and wits about her. “We talked about this. He’s not my responsibility, no. But he’s yours and I like the kid and I love you. So I help, not because I’m obligated to, but because that’s what you do when you’re family. I’m your family, Lil.”
“You have enough obligations in your life.”
“I surely do.” He laughed and hugged her, not missing the chance to give her butt a squeeze since they were alone and all. The rogue. “But you’re not one of them and neither is Chris. You’re a pleasure.”
She frowned. “You already raised your brothers and sisters. I don’t want your relationship with me to be that.”
He drew her to the couch and made her sit with him. “Lil, my childhood was a fucking nightmare. You know that. The only thing that saved me, saved us all, was the fact that we stuck together. I love how you are with your brother. I love that despite the fact that your mother and father both have checked out from parenting Chris, you haven’t. It’s one of the many reasons I love you the way I do.”
Lily sighed, blowing it out and hoping some of her stress went with it. “She hasn’t checked out. She’s getting help. It takes time to relearn how to live your life.”
“Good thing she’s got her one responsible daughter to do her job then, because Chris can’t just check out for six months in the meantime.”
His mouth flattened into a line as he forced himself to stop speaking. She knew his feelings on the matter. Knew her mother’s decision to spend six months in a group living situation two states away instead of nearer to her children had disappointed and angered him. But he’d been careful not to harp on it too much and she respected that.
Hell, she was pissed off enough on her own. But being pissed off didn’t get Chris to the orthodontist. It didn’t keep him out of trouble. And it wouldn’t keep her mother sober either. Bitterness was a waste of time and she didn’t have enough to waste.
He took her face in his hands and kissed her sweetly. “Baby doll, I love you. When you love someone, what they think is important is important to you too. If I felt put upon I would say so. Stop pushing me away. I’m not going anywhere. You’re going to be my wife and the mother of my children. Helping you is not only what I’m supposed to do, but my pleasure. You’re pretty independent as it is. I don’t get too many chances to take care of things for you. It’s really about me, you know.”
She sighed, squeezing his hands. “I’m sorry I push you away sometimes.”
He knew what it was like to be made to feel as if you were a burden. He knew she went out of her way to be sure Chris never felt that.
“Your father is full of crap. So’s mine. I’d despair at all the worthless dads in the world if it weren’t for those men who did such a great job at it like Edward Chase.
I’m your man
. You can’t push me away because I’m not going to let you. Because I love you. Now. I’m staying over and you can make me pancakes in the morning to thank me. That together with some loud sex tonight when we get back should pay your bill in full.”
Her face lost the tightness around her features as she smiled. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Nathan Murphy.”
The absurdity of this made him bark a surprised laugh. Given their history, the way it had been she who’d saved him instead of the other way around struck hard.
“I’m gonna put moves on you tonight you’ve never seen. Also, you’re a miracle to me so be quiet and accept that graciously.” He stood and held his hand out.
She took it and allowed him to draw her close again. “I can see I need to invest in some of that no-smudge lipstick or gloss. You’re a menace to my lips.”
He kissed her hard, bubble gum gloss and all.
The lights in the trees and along the arbors around the dance floor lent the not usually very glamorous Grange some romance.
The scent of jasmine hung in the air, and Nathan thanked heaven for the breeze and the cleverly placed fans for keeping the place from being sweltering. Sweltering would have meant less opportunity to get nice and close to Lily on the dance floor.
And as delicious as she looked, he didn’t want to waste a moment.
Currently, she sat across from him, her head bent toward his sister Beth as they laughed about something or other. Didn’t matter what, he just liked to look at her. Liked to see her there with their friends and family.
“I hear you two finally set a date.” Maggie Chase leaned across her husband Kyle to squeeze Lily’s hand. “Polly has been talking about it nonstop.”
“I really can’t believe she’s offering to let us use the house. It’s far too generous. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
The entire table erupted with laughter. Everyone who knew Polly Chase knew she didn’t take no for an answer when she wanted the answer to be yes. She was a tiny woman with a will bigger than most he’d ever come across.
Nathan knew, much as Maggie would have, that Polly considered the Murphys part of her family, and once Polly considered you family, that was that. She’d see an offer of their house for the wedding as something to do because she’d do the same for her biological children.
Maggie looked to her husband a moment before looking back to Lily. “We got married there, so did Liv and Marc. It’s a perfect spot. And you know Polly will love helping. She wouldn’t have offered if she hadn’t meant it.”
Lily smiled and Nathan’s chest tightened with emotion at the sight of the tears glimmering in her eyes. “She told me you all had a history of Christmas weddings and proposals, and she’d love for us to add to that tradition. She knows how to make a girl cry.”
“I’m just relieved we have a date at last and a place. She can’t run out on me now.” He sent her a smile and she sent him one back, warming him all over. It was really time to go. Time to get her home and alone to divest her of all those clothes she had on. He wondered what her panties looked like and then realized he’d know all up close and personal-like very soon.
She blushed, probably knowing he was thinking dirty things about her. “Ha. You think I’d give you up now that you’re all trained and stuff? I’m no fool.”
“As guys go he’s not bad.” Beth tossed a beer-bottle cap at Nathan’s head. Tate laughed.
“So guess what? I stopped by the Honey Bear earlier today, and William told me Joe Harris is coming back to Petal.” Joe had been William’s best friend back in the day. He’d been from the part of town Nathan and his siblings were. Joe had lived a hard life before he’d even turned eighteen. He’d been content to wild around getting in trouble, got arrested a few times for stupid, petty stuff. But he’d enlisted in the military and had turned his life around.
“I figured he’d go anywhere but Petal after he got out of the military.” Nathan knew that feeling too.
“William said he was thinking about opening a business here. He couldn’t get really detailed, it was busy and the counter was overrun.” Tate sat back against Matt.
Lily spoke to Nathan. “Get his contact info when you get the chance, Nathan. We need to invite him to the wedding.”
Lily sent a look to Beth—a quick, sneaky girl look—and Nathan narrowed his gaze suspiciously.
Beth raised a brow and both women laughed.
“You didn’t date him. I would have known.” Nathan shook his head.
Lily laughed. “Oh goodness no. He was such a bad boy, my parents never would have let him up the front walk. But if I remember correctly, he’s mighty cute, and from everything I’ve heard, he’s changed his tune and turned his life around. Plus he’s a friend of your brother’s. It’s welcoming, you know, to invite an old friend to a wedding.”
“I agree. It’s neighborly and all.” Beth nodded, a smile edging her mouth, and Nathan looked toward Tate, who shrugged noncommittally, which meant she knew exactly what was up.
But when he looked back to Lily, she had that smile, the one she gave only to him, and suddenly nothing else mattered.
“I’m feeling a little tired.” He said this looking straight at her.
“Yeah, me too.”
Within moments everyone had gotten up and headed out to the parking lot. Hugs were exchanged as the husbands steered wives to cars.
“You know,” Lily said as she buckled her seat belt, “we have all sorts of time. I don’t think I’ve been out parking…well, ever.”
“You think I know the best places to drive out into the country? Hmm?” With a hand on her thigh, he pulled out onto the road and began to head away from Petal. “You think I’d know where to take a female for some smooching and a few bases?”
“I totally do, Nathan Murphy. You’re a rogue. A handsome one at that. So I imagine you’ve taken a few ladies out to look at the stars while you were all smooth and got your hand up under their sweaters. They might have even let you put in the tip.”
“Goddamn, Lil, you know what it does to me when you’re this way.”
She settled back against the seat with that smile of hers. “Oh yes, I surely do.”
He drove, managing, just barely, to not break the speed limit. The last thing he wanted was to have this time with her interrupted by a ticket. Truth be told, he hadn’t been out parking in a good fifteen years, but he was a high school teacher, after all. He’d heard the kids talking about this place or that place to go and make out. Pretty much the same places from when he was in high school.
She watched him as he drove, the window was down and her hair blew all over the place but she just pushed it back. He loved that she wasn’t fussy, even as she was always so pretty and put together.
The road he took out to the lake wasn’t as well maintained as the main one so he took it slow and finally found a good spot to park. The lake was down a hill and off in the distance. The moon was full and gave plenty of light.
Before he could say anything, she was in his lap and he had to push the seat back. “I’m not wearing any underpants. I put them in my purse an hour ago.”
“Good Lord, woman, you’re going to kill me.” That he said this as his hands busily skimmed up her thighs and under the skirt to find out if she was lying sort of negated the whole dying thing.
And yes indeed she was bare. Warm and wet, waiting for him. She gasped and then shivered when his fingers slid through her pussy, finding her clit and tickling it. Just a breath of a touch.
She squirmed and made that sound he loved so much. He skated his mouth down the line of her neck, and she held him to her, her fingers sliding into his hair and tugging.
“Demanding.” He flicked open one of the buttons at the bodice of her dress and then another. “I’m going to take my time, so shush.”
She laughed and leaned close enough to nip his ear and lick over the lobe. She knew it made him crazy. And it did.
“I love you, Lily.” He took her mouth when she straightened to return the sentiment. She sighed into him, softening and letting him take the kiss wherever he wanted.
He tasted and teased, reveling in her, in that moment. Her tongue slid along his as she tasted and teased right back. They had amazing chemistry. He wanted her from the moment he woke up until the moment he fell asleep. Even with his hands on her, he wanted her. The need for what they did together, the energy they made, the way she filled his life excited him.